Saudi Americans

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Saudi Americans
أمريكيون سعوديون
Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg Flag of the United States.svg
Total population
7,419 (Saudi ancestry or ethnic origin. 2000 U.S. Census Report on the Arab-American population).[1]
96,783 (Saudi-born, 2015)[2]
Regions with significant populations
California, Washington, DC, Florida, Ohio
American English, Arabic (Najdi Arabic, Hijazi Arabic)
Related ethnic groups
others Arab Americans

Saudi Americans (Arabic: سعوديون أمريكيون‎ lit. So’odioon Amricioon) are Americans of total or partial Saudi descent. According to the census of 2000, 7,419 people of Saudi origin were living in the United States. In 2015, according to the American Community Survey, 96,783 Saudi-born people were living in United States.[2] Saudi Arabia and the United States have had important political relations since the 1940s. Population estimates are seen to have a very small diaspora, mainly because Saudi Arabia provides them with more than adequate welfare benefits, removing the need to live and work in other developed countries.


Citizens of Middle Eastern countries have been immigrating to the United States since the late nineteenth century. However, the Muslims of Middle East did not begin to immigrate in great numbers until after World War II. The first Saudis who settled in the United States were personal ambassadors of the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Washington, D.C., in the mid-1940s. The US Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which established preferential treatment for educated immigrants, encouraged a limited number of Saudis to seek US citizenship. Those Saudi Arabians who did settle permanently in the United States were commonly well educated and lived near cities where they held professional jobs.

Due to the number of Saudi families in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, there were enough children of primary and secondary school age to establish in 1984 the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, Virginia (to other Muslim children are also permitted to attend). The government of Saudi Arabia funded the academy to provide an academic, religious and Arabic curriculum. It services 1,150 children in kindergarten through the 12th grade and sits on 100 acres (0.40 km2).

In the 1990 census, only 4,486 US citizens reported that they were of Saudi Arabian descent. Despite of this, in 1999, the Information Department of the embassy did not know the exact number Saudi citizens who had lived in the United States for long periods before the end of the Second World War.[3]


Following the World War II, young Saudi men began coming to the United States to obtain higher educations. Saudi Arabia's oil wealth allowed the government sponsor these students financially. As of 1999, they were provided with tuition money, funds for room and board, clothing, medical care, one plane ticket round trip to visit Saudi Arabia each year, and other benefits. Bonuses were given to those people studying in scientific or technical fields.[3]

Saudi men were encouraged through economic incentives to marry, and to take their families with them, and therefore reduce feelings of isolation and culture shock in the USA. One incentive included tuition money as well for the man's spouse that come to study. Unmarried Saudi women were required to have a chaperone to travel outside of Saudi Arabia as of 1999, although a woman's family could choose not to have her chaperoned. According to editor Richard Nyrop, in his book Saudi Arabia: A Country Study, "[t]he vast majority [of Saudi students] remained deeply committed to the Saudi values that surrounding religion as well as family and social life. The one area where there were measurable changes of opinion was in the attitudes toward women and women's role in society."

When universities in Saudi Arabia began opening in the 1960s, the number of Saudi students abroad decreased. This pleased conservative groups, who were concerned about sending so many young people out of the country, particularly to non-Muslim nations of which more than half were women. In 1991-92, this figure dropped to 5,000, with half students at universities in the United States. In 1999, the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington, DC estimated that 5,000 Saudis were studying in the United States, and that the majority were male.

The close political and economic relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States led to a number of generous educational grants on behalf of the Saudi government. In April 1976, Saudi Arabia presented in the University of Southern California an endowment in the amount of one million dollars to establish the King Faisal Chair of Islamic and Arab Studies.

In 1999, there were 25 Saudi Student Houses for support the embassy and the Saudi Cultural Mission across the United States. In October 1997, the Saudi Student House at Indiana State University held a "Saudi National Day", which featured traditional food, dancing, a fashion show, displays, slides and videos. At Michigan State University, a Saudi Student House was established in April 1996 to provide Islamic, educational, social, and athletic services; in 1999 it reported 70 members. Saudi students also congregated at mosques and Islamic centers, many of which received support from the embassy.

Academically, Saudi students were diverse, research dissertation of a wide variety of topics at the masters and doctoral levels. In the late 1970s, a majority were studying the social sciences, and later the community of Saudi students constitute a substantial body work about their experiences. Examples of researched topics include Abdullah Ahmed Oweidat's Ph.D. dissertation entitled "A Study of Changes in Value Orientation of Arab Students in the United States" (University of Southern California, 1981). He Saudi studied and other Arab students and found that those who had resided in the United States for at least three years demonstrated values similar to those held by Americans, which were significantly different from Arab students who had recently arrived to the United States. Another Ph.D. dissertation, by Abdullah Muhammad Alfauzan, researched how Saudi Arabian students in the United States viewed women's participation in the work force in Saudi Arabia. He found that Saudi students in the United States possessed more liberal viewpoints than their counterparts in Saudi Arabia.[3]


Individual Saudi citizens, as well as their government, have made financial contributions to Muslim organizations. Nevertheless, the relatively small Saudi community, and the low number of Saudis who choose to live permanently in the United States has limited uniquely the cultural developments of Saudi-Americans.

In the 1990 census, Saudi Arabians reported living in 44 of the 50 of United States. The greatest number, 517, resided in California. There were five additional states that reported over 200 Saudi Arabians: Colorado, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

There are a variety of reasons why so few Saudi Arabians chose to permanently live to the United States. Among these were the wealth of Saudi Arabia, the religious faith and pride of Saudis who found it difficult to maintain an Islamic lifestyle in the United States, and a lack of factors motivating citizens to leave Saudi Arabia. The limited number of marriages between the US and Saudi citizens may also have contributed to the low number of Saudi immigrants and of Saudi Americans.

Political dissent and dissatisfaction with the restrictions of living in an orthodox Muslim society were among the factors that encouraged migration. The US Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, that gave special treatment to those educated immigrants established in the United States, also helped Saudi immigrants adopt American citizenship.

Arabic is the national language of Saudi Arabia, but English is commonly used in business transactions, particularly with foreigners. There were ten large newspapers operating in Saudi Arabia in 1992, all privately owned; seven were printed in Arabic and three in English. English is commonly taught in the public schools, and sometimes French is offered in private academies. The Saudi men living in the United States and who do not wish to return to Saudi Arabia do have other options when seeking a spouse. In the 1990s, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), headquartered in Plainfield, Indiana, maintained an electronic database of persons seeking to marry. Through it, Muslims living in the United States and Canada were able to locate potential spouses with whom they could share Islamic values. Many years ago, the restrictions for Saudi women desiring to marry non-Saudis are severe. As of 1999, they were required to get a kingly dispensation to marry anyone that was not from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, or the United Arab Emirates. In 1999, the American Embassy was aware of that only four Saudi women be married to American men. For these reasons, Saudi men and women living in the United States are unlikely to marry with Americans, thereby eliminating one aspect of Americanization: The cross-cultural marriages that have played key roles in helping to establish other ethnic communities in the United States.[3]



In the United States, Saudi women prepare traditional dishes and learn to work with American foods. In 1999, Aldeerah Restaurant at 262 Cedar Lane opened in Virginia. Also in 2015 Marib Saudi opened in Springfield. Also, Fair Price International Supermarket sells Saudi cuisine


Saudi music, secular or religious, was not being produced in the United States as of 1999, however, it has become more accessible through various music providers such as on the World Wide Web. Individual import companies also advertise their ability to provide Saudi music in the United States. Increasing interest in Arabic music led to the publication of several books on the topic, including the translation of Habib Hassan Touma's "The Music of the Arabs".[3]

Traditional customs[edit]

In the United States, most male Saudi students adopt Western standards of dress, including fashionable brands name as well as jeans, T-shirts and the like. Many Saudi women do not wear the abaya while in the United States; some women do not always wear a head covering, although most do. A family's religious piety influences how a woman will dress after arriving in the United States. In conservative settings such as the mosque, or for celebrations, both men and women are more likely to wear traditional clothing.[3]


The United States has had a long-term relationship with Saudi Arabia in the areas of medical research and care. In the 1960s through to the 1980s, Saudi Arabia developed and instituted expansive medical coverage for its citizens, built hospitals, and trained physicians. The United States assisted in this process, and as a result, some Saudi doctors were trained in the United States. In 1999, Saudi Arabia presented George Mason University in northern Virginia with a 1.1 million dollar grant to train 12 Saudi nurses for 15 months. Moreover, Saudi Arabia continues, as of 1999, to host and recruit doctors from around the world.[3]

Politics and governments[edit]

The authority of the ruling family was challenged several times in the latter half of the twentieth century. One of the more dramatic incidents occurred in 1979 with the capture by religious fundamentalists of the al-Haram, or "Grand Mosque", in Mecca. More than 200 people lost their lives during the two-week stand-off. Also in 1979, the newly installed Iranian government called for the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy, claiming that they no longer ruled with Islamic authority. During the Iran–Iraq War, which raged from 1980–1988, the Saudi government supported Iraq financially for fear of Iranian domination in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia's close political ties with the United States, born of the economic relationship created by oil, led to their support of Operation Desert Shield in 1990-1991. Although disturbed by the presence of non-Muslim and female soldiers on Arab land, the Saudis accepted over 700,000 troops from 37 nations to forge the attack against Iraq. The Gulf War (1991) led to domestic unrest in Saudi Arabia, when reform-minded citizens and human rights organizations sought to modernize the rigorous methods and policies of the Saudi government.

While Saudi Arabia and the United States are linked because of a mutually beneficial relationship over oil, the two countries do not always agree on issues. Significantly, Saudi Arabia and the United States have differed in foreign policy stances regarding Israel and the Middle East. Ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia led to their joint efforts during the Gulf War. Though, differences in foreign policy, specifically as they relate to Israel and the Middle East, have limited military cooperation. This did not prevent the enrollment of ten Saudi cadets at the State University of New York's Maritime College at Fort Schuyler in 1999.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Table 1. First, Second, and Total Responses to the Ancestry Question by Detailed Ancestry Code: 2000" (XLS). U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Place of Birth for the Foreign-born Population in the United States, Universe: Foreign-born population excluding population born at sea, 2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. 2015. Archived from the original on February 14, 2020. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Schryer, Sonya (2006). "A Countries and Their Cultures: Saudi Americans". Countries and their cultures. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  4. ^ Mairesse, Michelle (2002). "The Bush-Saudi Connection". Retrieved May 16, 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • Al-Jasir, Abdullah S. H. "Social, cultural, and academic factors associated with adjustment of Saudi students in the United States." (PhD 1994, University of Illinois Urbana)
  • Norris, Sonya Schryer. "Saudi Arabian Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 4, Gale, 2014), pp. 75-85. Online

External links[edit]